09 November 2009

It's Not Far From Afghanistan to Russia


The Russian population is disappearing at both ends of the life spectrum -- high death rates and low birth rates. Spiraling drug addiction in Russia is not helping.
Russia's drugs crisis is real enough: between 2000-05 the number of drug users grew by 400%. Even official figures reckon the number of addicts as between 2-2.5 million, some 2% of the population, while independent estimates put the figure at closer to 3-5 million. Unlike the rest of the world, in Russia, the HIV epidemic shows no signs of slowing down.

Drug addiction has become a significant factor in Russia's demographic crisis. According to the head of the Federal Drug Control Agency (FDCS), Viktor Ivanov, the average life expectancy of addicts is 5-7 years, and two thirds of addicts are under 30. A report last month by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) estimates that 30,000 people a year are dying from drugs, more than the overall number of soldiers killed in the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan. If present trends continue the country's population will shrink by 18 million by 2025.

...The extent of the problem has clearly caught Russian officialdom unprepared. Though the influx of opiates is widely regarded as one of the many social ills which has entered the country since the fall of communism, it has its origins in Russia's disastrous military campaign in Afghanistan in the 1980s. A generation of traumatised young conscripts returned home having acquired the heroin habit and today the country is now the world's top consumer of heroin.

...Prof Vladimir Mendelevich of Kazan State Medical University maintains that ‘the most serious barrier to tackling the problem is the incompetence of officials.' Monaghan agrees. ‘I'm mesmerised by the lack of knowledge in this field. They keep telling us "we've conducted our own research." But no research exists that has been internationally peer reviewed! "‘Russian addicts are different," they say. But how can they be? To some extent, I can stomach their indifference and their lack of knowledge, but the crass stupidity is much harder to digest.

...Recent Russian pronouncements suggest that it regards attempts by the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime to set up harm reduction programmes in the CIS countries as a part of the larger battle for control by the West of the post-Soviet space. ‘All CIS countries are today actively introducing harm reduction and substitution programs,' Minister of Health Tatiana Golikova reported to Russia's Security Council last month. ‘This is of course accompanied by programmes for the legalization of drugs prohibited on the territory of the Russian Federation.' Having lost its battle to persuade Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia to drop such programmes, Russia is now putting pressure on Kazakhstan. Earlier this year Uzbekistan did pull the plug on its OST programme having ‘conducted research' - research which Uzbek officials have refused to make public.

It is this kind of politicisation of the issue, which is condemning young addicts in Russia to death and exacerbating the HIV epidemic that makes Geoffrey Monaghan despair: ‘I say to them ‘Look, if we really wanted to damage Russia we would be saying "Don't set up OST programmes, stop NSPs and whatever you, don't promote harm reduction..!" _OpenDemocracy_via_laRussophobe
Russia is dying a slow and painful death, and shows no signs of being reborn. The fault lies deep within the Russian people themselves -- their inbred complacency to living under tyranny. The Russian people have never known freedom, having gone from living under a Tsar to living under brutal communist dictatorship.

20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russia is traveling the reverse path back toward belligerent dictatorship. It can only end badly.

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3 Comments:

OpenID snakeoilbaron said...

Agreed. All of Russia's problems are feeding back on each other. And there is more to come as large amounts of bad debt - their own credit crisis - begin to hit the fan.

Monday, 09 November, 2009  
Blogger Mark said...

I know we've gone over this on your blog before, but I feel compelled to point out that the birth rate *has* increased markedly in Russia in the past few years. August of this year was the first month in 15 years in which births actually outnumbered deaths.

Of course, the demographic situation over there is still abysmal, but there's some reason for optimism.

Sunday, 15 November, 2009  
Blogger al fin said...

Most of the higher births are accounted for by immigrant births. This is true for Russia, for the USA, and for France.

Be careful of vital statistics in countries where the infrastructure is so broken down -- essentially third world in nature.

Russia is suffering economically. This is not a time you expect to see optimism as personified by new baby faces. For immigrants of Central Asia, on the other hand, even a depressed Russia can seem prosperous. Time to make babies.

Monday, 16 November, 2009  

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